Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004537, Wed, 3 Nov 1999 07:47:50 -0800

VN Bibliography: Boyd, "Nabokov's Pale Fire" (fwd)
From: Julie Billings <Julie_Billings@pupress.princeton.edu>

Below, you'll find a capsule description on a new title published by
Princeton University Press.
Julie Billings
Princeton University Press
"Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery"
Brian Boyd

Cloth $29.95 / £18.95
232 pp. Due November 1999.
ISBN: 0-691-00959-7

For order information, visit our web site:

"No one knows more about Nabokov and his works than Brian Boyd does, and
this book is obviously a work of passion. It enlivens our sense of a
marvelous novel, it encourages generous close reading, and it makes the best
case possible for the general human value of Nabokov's fiendish
cleverness."--Michael Wood, Princeton University, author of The Magician's
Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction

"Brian Boyd is Nabokov's ideal, astute, and observant reader, paying
attention to every detail which, for Nabokov, was the essence of all writing
and all reading. Boyd does so not only intelligently and thoughtfully but
also lovingly."--Galya Diment, University of Washington

"This is a remarkable piece of literary detective work. Brian Boyd brings to
bear on Nabokov's most elaborately encrypted novel an acute attention to
textual detail and a vast fund of relevant learning, coupled with endlessly
resourceful ingenuity. The result is a provocative thesis about the
structure and meaning of the novel-seemingly a "solution" but, as he himself
grants, really grounds for continuing discussion, and in any case, a vivid
demonstration of the excitements of skilled reading."--Robert Alter,
University of California, Berkeley

Pale Fire is regarded by many as Vladimir Nabokov's masterpiece. The novel
has been hailed as one of the most striking early examples of postmodernism
and has become a famous test case for theories about reading because of the
apparent impossibility of deciding between several radically different
interpretations. Does the book have two narrators, as it first appears, or
one? How much is fantasy and how much is reality? Whose fantasy and whose
reality are they? Brian Boyd, Nabokov's biographer and hitherto the foremost
proponent of the idea that Pale Fire has one narrator, John Shade, now
rejects this position and presents a new and startlingly different solution
that will permanently shift the nature of critical debate on the novel. Boyd
argues that the book does indeed have two narrators, Shade and Charles
Kinbote, but reveals that Kinbote had some strange and highly surprising
help in writing his sections. In light of this interpretation, Pale Fire now
looks distinctly less postmodern--and more interesting than ever.

In presenting his arguments, Boyd shows how Nabokov designed Pale Fire for
readers to make surprising discoveries on a first reading and even more
surprising discoveries on subsequent readings by following carefully
prepared clues within the novel. Boyd leads the reader step-by-step through
the book, gradually revealing the profound relationship between Nabokov's
ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, and metaphysics. If Nabokov has generously
planned the novel to be accessible on a first reading and yet to incorporate
successive vistas of surprise, Boyd argues, it is because he thinks a deep
generosity lies behind the inexhaustibility, complexity, and mystery of the
world. Boyd also shows how Nabokov's interest in discovery springs in part
from his work as a scientist and scholar, and draws comparisons between the
processes of readerly and scientific discovery.

This is a profound, provocative, and compelling reinterpretation of one of
the greatest novels of the twentieth century.


"[I pay] tribute to Mr. Boyd for having the courage and humility to retract
an earlier conjecture and the imaginative daring to come up with one as
provocative and potentially fruitful as this one. . . . Brian Boyd has once
again made himself an ornament of the accidents and possibilities of Nabokov
scholarship and . . . I salute him for it."--Ron Rosenbaum, The New York

Brian Boyd is a Professor of English at the University of Auckland, New
Zealand. He is the author of the prize-winning Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian
Years (Princeton 1990), Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton
1991), and Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness. Referred to in a
recent journal as "the great man of Nabokov studies," he has also edited
Nabokov's English novels and autobiography for the Library of America and
Nabokov's Butterflies for Beacon Press. He is currently writing a critical
study of Shakespeare and a biography of the philosopher Karl Popper.